Firefighters responded to Mercy Regional Medical Center on Saturday about 5:30 p.m. after an area of mulch nearly touching the building caught fire and quickly spread.
Durango Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Karola Hanks said it was likely a cigarette that ignited the dry mulch.
“Then, with the high winds they were having out there, it literally just took off,” she said. “And it was right up against the building, obscuring the lower windows with smoke and flames. People said they could even see parts of the building.”
The blaze grew to about 100-by-20 feet.
Hanks said it’s a common occurrence, and that a similar incident occurred last year at Mercury Payment Systems.
“It’s really about mulch and about people throwing their cigarette butts out,” she said. “When you have a southern-facing building and the sun is hitting it, it’s super-heating that mulch. It was pretty scary.”
She said the mulch, about 6 inches deep, created a deceptive amount of smoke when burning but is still dangerous. At first response, firefighters initially believed the building was on fire.
“If that hadn’t been a brick-and-masonry building, it would have had a whole different outcome,” she said.
With high winds and warmer temperatures, Hanks said most people are becoming more aware than they have been about fire conditions.
“This may be the end of March, but things want to burn and want to burn quickly,” she said. “We all need to pay close attention to how we use fire, and we all need to be responsible.”